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Battle survivor testifies Japanese military ordered mass suicides

Date Posted: 2007-09-12

Shigeaki Kinjo says Japanese soldiers ordered Okinawa citizens to commit suicide rather than surrender to Americans during the Battle of Okinawa.
The 78-year-old Kinjo told a Naha court he knows, because he was there. The Battle of Okinawa survivor was testifying in a lawsuit brought by a group that doesn’t believe Japanese soldiers were involved in issuing such orders. Kinjo’s closed session testimony was requested by the Osaka High Court.
The Osaka High Court is hearing the lawsuit, which seeks to block publication of a booklet by author Kenzaburo Oe. Oe, a Nobel Prize winner, says in his book Japanese soldiers issued the mass suicide order during the waning days of World War II, during the Spring 1945 Battle of Okinawa.
“Without an order from a military officer,” Kinjo testified, “no mass suicide could have happened.” He told the court how grenades were given to Okinawans before American troops landed on the island, and how they were segregated near a Japanese military base and told to wait for the suicide order.
Kinjo says he and his older brother used rocks to kill their mother, sister and another brother. Now a Tokashiki Island pastor, Kinjo later told a Naha audience “Were it not for the Japanese military, the mass suicides would not have occurred.” Testimony from Tokashiki Island residents said more than 300 people used hand grenades and farm tools to kill each other during the battle.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers charge Kinjo’s recollections are faulty and contradictory.
The entire mass suicide issue has gained prominence since the Ministry of Education last March ordered textbook publishers to remove references from history books that Japanese soldiers provided hand grenades and ordered Okinawans to commit suicide. Okinawans have been demanding, thus far unsuccessfully, that they mass suicide passages remain in new textbooks due in schools next April.
The Osaka High Court is expected to hear Oe’s testimony in November, and issue a ruling next spring.

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